In the previous post, we explored some of the emotions and reactions families can have if they find out their teenager is pregnant. Now let’s look at the options available to youth facing an unintended pregnancy. The video’s right here but if text is your thing, keep right on reading!
Talking about pregnancy options can be controversial. Some folks have deeply held beliefs on this subject – including yours truly! I always encourage my clients to “own their values” and I want to follow my own advice. I’m proudly pro-choice. Two of my most deeply held beliefs are that people should be able to choose what happens to their own bodies and that they should be able to decide whether or not they want to give birth. In keeping with those values, I’m going give you an overview of all three pregnancy options: parenting, adoption and abortion.
As a sexuality professional, I don’t see any of those options as inherently better than another. I do encourage people to think about which option best will best serve their body, their well-being, their values and their life.
A teen who chooses to parent will give birth and then raise the child themselves. Last week I wrote about teen pregnancy and stigma. Some teen parents also face harsh criticism and judgement about their ability to raise children. Side-eyeing young parents and making shady comments about “babies having babies” doesn’t help anyone. Teen parents and their children are far more likely to be successful if they have the support of their family, their friends and the community.
Being a young parent has some specific challenges, but that doesn’t mean your teen can’t be a loving, responsible parent. If your teen is thinking about raising a child of their own, here are a few things to consider:
- Parenting is a lifelong commitment – the ultimate ride-or-die relationship! If you take responsibility from a child, you can’t walk away from them later, at least not without the risk of inflicting some serious emotional harm on that child.
- Do they have a plan for managing both parenting, school and/or work? All three can be extremely tiring and time-consuming. That having been said, there are people who pull it off.
- How will they provide for their child? How will they pay for food, a home, and the things a baby needs like diapers, clothing and crib?
- Will they need and have access to childcare?
- Do they have access to medical care?
- If a partner or co-parent is involved, do they need to make custody arrangements or set up child-support?
In addition to help from family and friends, there are organizations that provide support for young parents and their children. Here are a few:
If your teen choose adoption, they will give birth, then place the baby with another family to raise. In Canada and the U.S., most adoptions are arranged through a lawyer or through an adoption agency, usually at no cost to birth parent. Your teen will look at profiles of potential adoptive parents and flag any families that look like a good match. If they want to meet a family, the agency or lawyer can arrange it. Ultimately, your teen will choose the family they feel will give the baby the best life.
There are two types of adoptions: open adoption and closed adoption. In an open adoption, the adoptive family stays in touch with your teen, sending letters and pictures to keep your teen up-to-date on how the child is doing. In some cases, the birth parents may even have occasional visits with the child. In a closed adoption, your teen doesn’t have any contact with the child or adoptive family.
You teen might also choose to sign up with an adoption registry. They can leave their name and the details of their adoption, so that once the baby comes of age, they’ll have the option to look up the information and get in touch with their biological family.
If your teen chooses an adoptive family for the baby, they aren’t under any legal obligation to proceed with the adoption until after they’ve given birth. Once they have the baby, your teen can consent to letting adoptive parents take the baby home from hospital; however many in provinces and states, a biological parent is required to wait at least few days before signing away their parental rights.
Once they do sign away those rights, biological parents often have a grace period of a few weeks when they can ask to have their rights reinstated. Once the grace period is over, your teen’s parental rights end permanently.
If your teen choose an abortion, they’ll end their pregnancy by having the embryo or fetus removed from their uterus. There are two types of abortion: medical and surgical. In Canada, there are no laws restricting who can access abortion, however; each province has their own guidelines about how late into a pregnancy abortion is available. In the U.S. each state has its own laws and regulations about who is allowed have an abortion and how late into a pregnancy abortion is available. A medical abortion can only be performed early in the pregnancy – usually within 7 weeks from the date of your teen’s last period, or 5 weeks from the day the conceived. Medical abortions are less common because people often don’t know they’re pregnant that soon. A medical abortion happens in three stages:
- In the first stage, your teen will go to a doctor’s office where they’ll be given pills or an injection to stop the pregnancy.
- The second stage happens a few days later. Your teen will take another round of medication at home that causes the uterus to contract and shed it’s lining along with the embryo. It’s like a very heavy period and your teen may experience some rough side effects like cramps and nausea.
- In the final stage, your teen will return to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound. The ultrasound will confirm that the pregnancy has stopped and the embryo is gone.
The more common type of abortion is a surgical abortion. Surgical abortions are usually performed within 12 to 14 weeks from the date of your teen’s last period, but they can be performed up to 20 weeks. Again, access to surgical abortion will vary depending on where your teen lives. A surgical abortion is done at a clinic or in a doctor’s office. Your teen will be given a local anesthetic to numb their cervix. Then the clinician will dilate their cervix and insert a long suction wand into your teen’s uterus. The wand is like a vacuum that sucks the fetus out of the uterus. Sometimes the clinician will finish the procedure by using a tool called a curette to gently scrape any remaining tissue out of your teens uterus.
A surgical abortion usually takes between 5 and 15 minutes to complete. In most cases, your teen will be allowed to rest in the clinic or doctor’s office for as long as they need, and they can go home the same day. They physical recovery is usually relatively fast. Your teen may be tired, have cramps or nausea for a day or so after the procedure. They may also have heavy period-type bleeding for a few days afterward and need to wear pads or period underwear.
Pregnancy can be an intense experience and it can be emotional for your teen no matter which option they choose. Furthermore, their feelings might be a combination anything: joy, fear, loss, excitement, relief, regret, grief, peace. I don’t believe there’s any right or wrong way for your teen to feel about their pregnancy or the way they choose to deal with it. I also don’t believe there’s any right or wrong in terms of how intensely a person reacts to an unintended pregnancy. Some teens will take awhile…sometimes a long while to come to terms with their choice. Other are able to make a decision, process it and move on with relative ease. As family, we can understand that choosing what do to about their pregnancy may be one of the most significant decisions they have to make. We can do our best to accept and support whatever feelings come up for our teenagers
Most people, including teenagers, have healthy pregnancy and safe births. Abortions performed by trained medical professionals are amongst the safest procedures today But there are still potential health risks associated with pregnancy, birth and abortion. Here’s some information to look over:
I hope this post was helpful. Next week I’ll share strategies families can use to help their teens avoid unintended pregnancy in the first place!